Carlos Dunlap II arrived in Seattle, went through his mandatory COVID-19 testing and had three practices last week before taking the field Sunday in Buffalo.
He spent the last decade in Cincinnati with the Bengals, so it was a shock just to be surrounded by new teammates and colors. Dunlap had trouble describing how strange it was to be with a new organization, but he knows that will get easier with time.
"That pre-game warmup was so weird," Dunlap said Wednesday. "There were so many weird feelings going out there. I was trying to do my normal routine, and even though I did my normal routine, it just felt like out of place and weird. When we come out as a team to do our warmups as a team, we're stretching and I'm looking around. You normally have one or two guys you make eye-contact with and you get going or say something. I was trying to find out who was going to be my guy."
While Dunlap might not have found a guy to hype him up last Sunday, another week on the practice field could help. Last week, Dunlap worked tirelessly to familiarize himself with the playbook and different language of the defense over his three days of practice.
Dunlap's younger teammates noticed his mentality and work ethic from the moment he arrived last Wednesday.
"The first time I saw Carlos, my first impression was 'This guy's a real pro,'" said fellow defensive end Rasheem Green, a three-year man. "He carries around a briefcase, always has a notepad, always super early in meetings. He's always doing things as a pro. So, that's what thing I'm going to try and copy from him – just the small things."
On paper, he had no issues getting comfortable. Dunlap totaled one sack and three tackles for loss as he played 68 percent of the Seahawks' defensive snaps in his debut. Despite his strong numbers, there are still plenty of small nuances that Dunlap has to work out with his new teammates.
"K.J. (Wright) made a line call during the game and Carlos heard the call and he figured that must mean I'm supposed to do this or that, and it was to the nose tackle," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. "So he went ahead and did the best he could. I'm hoping those kinds of things -- it worked and he made a tackle in the backfield, but I'm hoping that as we get along together longer we'll be more accurate and precise about the stuff that's happening and won't have as many first-time experiences."
"He told on me," Dunlap said while laughing. "Yeah, there was a play, yeah. It was a situation where normally, in my defense for 10 years, that's a situation we would call that. So, I did exactly what I would have done in black and orange and made the play still. They were excited, but I was transparent, I said 'I thought you were talking to me.' But, hey, live for the next down."
Dunlap's increasing comfort-level within the defense is critical to Seattle's success. After losing two of the last three games, the Seahawks have two key divisional games coming up against the Rams this weekend and the Cardinals next Thursday. He's been playing in the NFL since 2010, but the importance of another week on the practice field can't be overlooked.
"Football is still football, but now I get a better feel for how our DC (Ken Norton) calls the game and how he calls throughout the game and get a rhythm for how guys play," Dunlap said. "I'm not coming in here trying to change any guy's routines or make them do anything different to cater to me. I'm capable of playing off them and making plays."
The Seahawks and the Rams will meet at Lumen Field for the Wild Card round of the 2020 playoffs on Saturday, January 9 at 1:40 p.m. PT. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.